The score: Chicago 40, Pittsburgh 23
The headline: NOT READY FOR PRIME TIME: Hapless Steelers flop again on national TV
The bottom line: The Steelers showed enough to say they’re probably not the worst team in the NFL, but ultimately they did what bad teams do, lost a game they dominated statistically in every category but one – turnovers.
It was over when: Chicago’s Earl Bennett put a nail in Pittsburgh’s self-made coffin with a neat double toe tap in the back corner of the end zone on a perfect Jay Cutler throw to stake the Bears to a 34-23 lead with six minutes left.
Play of the day: Facing a 3rd-and-10 deep in his own territory, and with momentum definitely on the Steelers side, Jay Cutler ducked under Pittsburgh’s outside pressure, danced for a first down and then leveled safety Robert Golden for good measure, propelling Chicago to its game-clinching drive.
+ A lot of people (present company included) have felt the Steelers were on the decline for quite awhile now and predicted a sub-.500 season in 2013, but we don’t think anyone felt this was one of the two or three worst teams in the league and right now they are. The reason is simple: Ben Roethlisberger is playing very poorly. He’s bailing out way too many deep balls, inaccurate on crossing throws and not taking care of the ball. We said in August that Pittsburgh’s only chance at a winning record this season was a career year by Roethlisberger. But we didn’t ponder the opposite: What would happen if he had the worst year of his career? We’re finding out and it isn’t pretty.
+ The Steelers have spent considerable time and money trying to fix their offensive line with high draft picks and the results have been nothing short of disastrous so far. Marcus Gilbert, who is strong but lead-footed, has been so consistently bad that he was benched Sunday. Mike Adams, who has an athletic lower body but isn’t strong enough, has struggled mightily at the all-important left tackle spot. David DeCastro has shown flashes but is absolutely not the can’t-miss-10-year-All-Pro player he was billed as by nearly every draft expert (Kevin Zeitler, taken a few picks later by the Bengals has been a markedly better pro already). And the cornerstone of the young group, center Maurkice Pouncey is once again injured. And … there’s really no one behind them who can help. Max Starks was available briefly last week before St. Louis signed him as a free agent.
+ The only real bright spots for Pittsburgh were the play of Antonio Brown, who backed up his just-give-me-the-damn-ball bravado (until that horrid personal foul penalty in the waning moments), and Jon Dwyer, who ran the ball effectively and was Pittsburgh’s best blocker by a large margin. Of course, the Dwyer situation is especially ironic because he was cut less than a month ago in a move that exemplifies everything that’s gone wrong with the Steelers: A long-term series of poor evaluations of football talent coupled with a stubborn refusal to acknowledge those mistakes.
+ Not sure if would have mattered, but Referee Pete Morelli’s crew missed not one, not two, but three blatant holds on the Bears’ opening drive, one against Brett Kiesel so egregious that NBC highlighted it with a replay.
+ That said, it sure looked like Chicago might have scored on three consecutive plays before actually scoring on fourth down to take a 17-0 lead. The first-down run was definitely across the line, we’d love to see a replay of whether Martellus Bennett tapped both toes on second down, the third-down run was very close and the replay couldn’t overturn whatever call was made on the field.
+ It’s hard to argue Morelli got it right in overturning the on-the-field call and allowing Bennett’s touchdown.
And now a word from our sponsor: That Moto X spot with the woman decorating her lazy, slacker boyfriend is one of the most painful things we’ve ever had to watch. Someone paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to have that made.
In the booth:
+ Collinsworth apparently forgot which game he was broadcasting when he said of Jon Dwyer’s excellent blitz pickup on the Steelers first TD: “Maybe he’s the guy who’s going to put them over the top.” Whoa, big fella, they’re a long way from the top.
+ There were also a couple other out-of-character misfires for Collinsworth, calling Kelvin Beachum “Kevin” and saying Max Starks was out of football. Starks sent an in-game tweet to NBC to remind them he suited up in St. Louis Sunday.
Sweet tweet: “@Coach2425: Jeff Locke had a better start than #7.” Blogger’s note: And he didn’t get physically pounded while being terrible.
Next week: We’ll see if the Steelers are any better in Greenwich Mean Time than they were in prime time as they head to London to face the Vikings. If you’re into WWE-type conspiracy theories involving the NFL (and you know who you are), you have to think there’s no way the league is going to allow one of its truly global franchises to lose a feature game on another continent, right? Right?